There is no single, standard definition of “unfair dismissal” in international law, but it is generally understood to mean the termination of employment in an unjust or unreasonable manner.
- In UK employment law, unfair dismissal is “a termination of the employment of a worker for a reason that is not permitted under statute”.
- In the United States, the term “wrongful termination” is more commonly used to describe an unlawful termination of employment, while “unfair dismissal” may refer to unethical conduct on the part of an employer that is not necessarily illegal.
- Australia’s Fair Work Ombudsman defines unfair dismissal as “when an employee is dismissed from their job in a harsh, unjust or unreasonable manner”.
In all cases it applies to termination of employment at the initiative of the employer for an inadmissible reason, and where this is proved the employee is entitled to appropriate remedy or compensation.
Unfair dismissal is a common problem all around the world. Although many countries have legislated against it, employers do not always fully comply with the law as intended. Furthermore, the heavy financial cost of lodging a complaint or even taking their employer to court, with the prospect of running up massive debts, normally forces victims to abandon any thought of seeking redress.
The Omani Labour Law grants employers the right to dismiss employees in the following cases:
- where an employee commits an act that results in grave material loss to the company or enterprise;
- prolonged absence from work without notification or justification;
- assumption of a false identity;
- forgery of certificates and documents in order to obtain the employment;
- disclosure of confidential information, for example disclosing company secrets to rival companies or businesses;
- an assault on the employer or manager in charge; or
- being found drunk or under the influence of drugs during working hours.
If an employee is dismissed without it being proved that one of these reasons applies, they are considered to have been unfairly dismissed, and the Labour Law permits them to claim their rights as follows:
- Workers who are unfairly dismissed by the employer have the right to demand to be reinstated in their jobs, with full payment of wages backdated to the date of dismissal.
- A worker whose dismissal is proved to have been unfair has the right to be paid damages in full backdated to the date of dismissal.
- A worker who gets no social insurance benefits has the right to claim an end-of-service bonus.
- Workers have the right to ask for pay in lieu of notice.
However, workers who are unfairly dismissed are usually those on very low pay (US$100-250 per month), such as cleaners or housemaids whose contracts contain no guarantees or social insurance provisions.
In many cases, judging by individual complaints sent to the Omani Centre for Human Rights (OCHR) website, the employer may suspend payment of a worker’s salary for a time, and not respond to his or her complaints, in order to goad him into reacting angrily or starting some dispute in which he gets embroiled, so the employer can exploit the worker’s reaction as an argument that he has committed an assault!
The economic crisis that has hit both major corporations and small businesses because of the coronavirus pandemic has contributed to a rise in cases of unfair dismissal on grounds of the employer’s lack of sufficient funds to cover workers’ salaries.
Furthermore, the government’s current Omanisation policy, whereby both small and large enterprises are compelled to replace expatriate employees with Omanis, has prompted some businesses to dismiss large numbers of migrant workers.
There is no service giving free legal assistance to those who are unfairly dismissed, which means they are forced to bear the burden of legal fees they cannot afford, as a result of which they don’t take any legal action. An employee who has been unfairly dismissed is in a weak position because the law normally favours the employer by protecting him and letting him find various illicit ways to evade his legal and moral responsibilities. In Oman, employers have no qualms about cheerfully acting in unfair and arbitrary ways, especially as most of them are either close to the government or themselves hold government positions… which they exploit to turn facts inside out and, contrary to the law, turn workers from victims whose rights have been denied into breakers of the law!
In your view,
should the relevant authorities
provide services giving free legal aid to those who have been unfairly dismissed,
as happens in advanced countries?